Woman standing and working on a computer what is STEM

What Is STEM and Why Is It Important?

When you think of STEM, you probably picture a laboratory, a scientist, or an engineer. However, there is probably more to STEM subjects than you realize. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics create the building blocks of our society, and people who work in these fields are crucially important. 

Whether you are planning to earn a STEM degree or are simply interested in learning more about these subjects, this guide has everything you need. Find out more about the STEM disciplines, and how they may be perfect for your future career. More importantly, you will discover where you can get a high-quality STEM education online.

What Is STEM Education?

The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These disciplines tend to focus on critical thinking and innovation. In STEM careers, you can make use of your scientific and mathematical knowledge to provide solutions for the problems of the world.

People working in the tech world get to develop and expand on existing technology to create new ways to help people and improve their lives. Scientists are constantly creating new ways to improve humanity and save lives. Through STEM-related fields, so many aspects of our lives have improved for the better.

The Importance of STEM Education

If you want to start a career in technology, or any other STEM field, you are going to have to start with gaining a STEM education. With our current reliance on computers and the Internet, gaining an understanding of how these tools work can be extremely beneficial. In STEM programs, you will learn the skills and gain the intelligence you need to thrive in your career.

At an early age, kids who are enrolled in STEM programs get a head start on developing their skills and curiosity. Adults with a STEM education are more likely to have the skills to excel in their chosen fields. You will be able to provide solutions that are sustainable and useful to society.

What Are STEM Subjects?

STEM subjects consist of everything under the heading of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You can choose your specialization as early as high school. Then, when you reach college, you can decide what specific degree program will interest you most.

Science deals with biology, chemistry, and physics. If you go the tech route, you will learn information technology and computer science. Engineering involves a lot of math and design, and it might cover the practical skills needed to handle machinery and tools. Mathematics covers algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, economics, and more.

What Is STEAM and STREAM?

STEAM and STREAM cover all of the subjects under the STEM umbrella, with a few added disciplines. The A in STEAM stands for arts, which includes humanities, language, visual arts, and more. The R in STREAM  adds writing and reading, which are especially important for kids who have just started studying.

What’s Demand Like for STEM Careers?

Based on data collected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were almost 10 million Americans employed in a STEM career as of 2019. Within 10 years, this number is expected to increase to over 10.7 million, which represents eight percent job growth. The demand for STEM professionals is extremely high. 

BLS also reports that the median annual wage for people in STEM jobs is $89,780. The salary and the demand for STEM occupations are more than double what they are for non-STEM jobs. 

Top STEM Careers

A career in STEM is definitely something to strive for. Aside from professional satisfaction, you can also earn a relatively high salary. This is especially true for computer and information technology occupations, with median salaries ranging from $55,510 to $126,830 per year. Find your desired STEM jobs in any of the following STEM fields. 

Physics

Physics, or physical science, is the study of matter and energy. You will have to understand concepts such as mass, force, charge, heat, and often some mathematics. Some notable job titles in physics are aerospace engineer, medical physicist, physics teacher, and lab manager.

Biology

Biology is a life and natural science, as it studies all living organisms, including humans and animals. Biology is a common pre-med course because it will prepare you for a future in medicine and healthcare. The common biology careers are biologist, medical doctor, forensic scientist, ecologist, and biotechnologist.

Chemistry

Chemistry deals with the interaction of different substances and the changes that they go through when combined or separated. It is one of the science fields that is also considered a good pre-med course. Your chemistry career options include chemist, toxicologist, chemical technician, analytical chemist, and chemistry teacher.

Computer Science

Computer science is the study of computers and computing systems. One of the primary skills you will need to work on software and hardware is programming. Some popular programming languages are Python, JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Some notable career paths in computer science are software engineering, web development, and video game development. 

Information Technology

Information technology uses computers and other telecommunication devices to store, manage, and send information. Organizations acquire the services of IT specialists to oversee the management of their data and information. Some jobs in the IT field are network administrator, systems analyst, and cyber security consultant. 

Data Science

Data science is the discipline of collecting, managing, and analyzing data. As more and more aspects of our lives are made digital, data science will play an essential role in our future. Upon completing an undergraduate data science degree or a data science bootcamp program, you can find positions such as data scientist, machine learning engineer, and data architect.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is an engineering discipline involving the development and design of buildings and other infrastructure. You would be involved in the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, airports, and other types of structures. Other than being a civil engineer, you can pursue jobs like marine engineer and structural engineer.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is another engineering discipline, but it is more involved in machinery and designing mechanical systems. Your work may involve designing, building, and testing machines to ensure that they are functioning and serve their purpose. Some of your career choices are mechanical engineer, automotive engineer, and technician.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering involves electricity and any equipment or device that uses electricity. You would be designing technology that allows people to remain safe from the potential hazard of electricity. Other than an electrical engineer, you can become a computer hardware engineer or a test engineer.

Mathematics Education

Mathematics education is the discipline and practice of teaching mathematics. You can teach at several levels, depending on your expertise. You may also be involved in research. Aside from being a mathematics teacher, you can also become a business advisor or community educator.

Statistics

Statistics is the discipline of collecting and analyzing data to draw conclusions and solve problems. Statistics uses a combination of science and math to provide a quantitative understanding of various subjects. Some of your career choices would include statistician, business analyst, or financial analyst.

Economics

Economics is the discipline concerned with the study of wealth and consumption. It uses mathematics and statistics to understand the behavior of individuals and other entities, and to create policies for the public. Once you complete your economics degree, you can work as an economist or a market research analyst.

How to Start a Career in STEM

a smiling student who is happy with her chosen STEM subject what is STEM
To launch a career in a STEM field, you must first develop STEM literacy.

Careers in the STEM field demand different expertise in various disciplines. Once you decide what discipline you want to work in, it will be easier to choose your degree program. Having access to quality STEM education is important because most STEM careers require advanced knowledge.

During your education, you might want to get involved with projects, such as research work, to showcase your abilities, meet others in your field, and gain experience. Many organizations are interested in investing in STEM education, so you might be able to find support in the form of computer science scholarships and other kinds of STEM awards. 

The demand for STEM professionals is high, and will likely only grow in the future as technology advances. Taking STEM courses, or gaining a degree described below, will help you start a successful career.

Associate Degree

It is possible to start a STEM career with an associate degree. There are associate degrees available for nursing, radiologic technology, and general laboratory work. You can apply to a vocational school and earn your certificate once you complete your studies.

An Associate Degree in Computer Science or Information Technology is also in demand for STEM professionals in technology disciplines. While companies usually put bachelor’s degrees in their job listings, if you have the skills they are looking for, you might still be considered. With an associate degree, you can become a web developer or IT specialist. 

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is the standard expectation for most STEM jobs. Completing a four-year program guarantees your expertise in your chosen discipline and paves the way for years of experience in the field. STEM careers often require a high level of study and might require a specific license.

After your four years of study, you will have completed several projects and gained a wide range of knowledge in your chosen STEM field. A bachelor’s degree also helps you determine what to specialize in. Once you graduate, you’ll have strong credentials from your university, extracurriculars, and on-the-job training.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in a STEM discipline is common because many tech and engineering fields require advanced study. This is especially true for those seeking to work in research. A master’s degree in STEM solidifies your knowledge and expertise in your chosen field and demonstrates your credentials.

Various universities offer postgraduate study for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree. You can also opt to work for a period of time before returning to your studies. To become a computer and information research scientist, you will need at least a master’s degree. 

Doctorate

A doctoral degree is a step up from a master’s degree. PhD study is usually sought by individuals in the STEM field who are interested in teaching. 

Once you complete your doctorate, you will be awarded a PhD title. This will give you access to further opportunities, especially if you have been recognized in the field, or have performed notable research.

Online STEM Programs

These days, you can earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, such as an online Master’s Degree in Information Technology, at respected institutions online.

Another option if you want to learn a specific discipline in a short amount of time is enrolling in a coding bootcamp. There are coding bootcamps that offer programs in web development, software engineering, software development, data science, data analytic, and more. Notable bootcamps, such as Turing School, are dedicated to helping you develop your tech skills.

Online STEM Courses

If you are simply interested in an online STEM course, there are plenty of resources to be found, such as the educational platforms Coursera and edX. Coursera has over 1,700 STEM courses on its website. If you are interested in biology, economics, game design, or machine learning, Coursera has you covered.

EdX is an educational platform where universities can upload their curricula as online courses, and students can study for free. With Coursera and other platforms, you can either study for free or pay a fee to earn a certificate of completion.

Is a STEM Career for Me?

STEM fields are wide-ranging, encompassing the four disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You may even be able to apply your knowledge of all four to whatever career you choose. If you find yourself interested in innovation, research, and development, then a STEM career is the right choice for you.

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